MAJOR roads improvements in Ards and North Down are being halted to funnel hundreds of millions of pounds into the west of Northern Ireland.
That’s the decision of Stormont roads bosses as they put a red light on two long-awaited local roads revamps, instead mainly prioritising projects in counties Londonderry and Tyrone.
This week the Department for Infrastructure (DfI), which controls the province’s road network, announced a new priority list for its major projects.
Major projects are budgeted at tens of millions apiece, and in some cases at well over £100m.
The DfI only had two in mind that would affect the Ards and North Down area.
One was a bypass at Ballynahinch, which has been on the cards for around 40 years yet has never come to fruition, and would go a long way to tackling congestion issues in the Ards town.
The other was an upgrade to the Sydenham Bypass on the border of Belfast and North Down, which was hoped to substantially improve gridlock problems on the incredibly busy A2 dual carriageway that forms the main commuter route between Bangor and the capital city.
The DfI has stopped work on both, instead choosing to prioritise nine schemes across the entirety of Northern Ireland. More than half of them are in the west – of the province, and none are in Ards and North Down.
Work will continue on the £1.6bn upgrade to the Western Travel Corridor, which links Londonderry City with Strabane, Omagh and the Irish border at Monaghan.
The DfI also wants to concentrate on building a £65m bypass at Cookstown, a £30m bypass to the south of Enniskillen, and a £200m project to build a dual carriageway along the A6 linking Londonderry with the small town of Dungiven.
Outside of the west, other projects that will be progressed include further upgrades to Belfast’s public transport system, and a relief road in Newry.
According to Stormont officials, reducing their list of priorities and halting work on a range of projects across the province, including the two local ones, is needed due to budget cuts and new commitments towards curbing climate change.
“This combination of factors has changed the landscape considerably,” said a DfI spokesman, “meaning delivery of the major roads programme as previously set out is no longer sustainable nor appropriate.”
The spokesman added that paused projects may reappear on future priority lists, but for now nothing will be done with them.
It’s more bad news for Ards and North Down, which consistently gets the least amount of money in the province for regular road repairs, and was recently declared to be the pothole capital of Northern Ireland